Sipp chief took out £1m ahead of collapse

Sipp chief took out £1m ahead of collapse

The chief executive of GPC Sipp, formerly known as Guardian Pension Consultants, has been paid a "dividend" of £1m a mere seven months before the company entered administration.

Latest accounts for GPC Sipp, uploaded on Companies House in January showed the company had net assets of £1.78m in the year to February 2018.

They also showed that on November 19, 2018 Kathryn Taylor, the only director at the firm, had £1m transferred to her directors loan account in the form of a "dividend". 

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GPC Sipp had about 2,700 Sipps holding alternative investments, several of which failed, before it shut its doors last month.

It is facing court action from 141 investors and a further 500 claims through the Financial Ombudsman Service.

The lawyers behind the court claims have now called for an investigation into the £1m payment.

Gareth Fatchett, partner at law firm FS Legal, which is bringing the claims on behalf of investors who lost money investing in failed property scheme Harlequin, said he did not understand why the claims were not mentioned in the accounts. He said two separate court cases had been issued in February 2017.

He said: "The case was issued over two years ago, there is no way she did not know about it. We will be asking our clients to appoint an independent liquidator to investigate why she took that money out."

Ms Taylor did not respond to requests for comment.

According to the accounts statement filed on January 23, for the year to February 2018, Ms Taylor was "not aware of any material uncertainties affecting the company" and considered that the company "will have sufficient resources to continue trading for the foreseeable future".

The only uncertainty cited by the company in the accounts was the ongoing court case Adams v Carey Pensions, which centres on the issue of due diligence by Sipp operators but is not otherwise related to the company.

Adams v Carey Pensions asks whether a Sipp provider has a duty to vet the underlying investment before allowing a client to invest and could affect GPC due to the many bad investments the company holds on its books.

The GPC Sipp accounts stated: "The outcome of that case may have a material bearing on the Sipp industry which may affect the company."

The accounts also showed GPC had made an 'exceptional costs' provision of £1.18m in 2018 for "bad and doubtful debt". 

This encompassed invoiced fees relating to the administration of Sipps "falling within the scope of the pending legal cases", namely the Carey case, and was still outstanding in January 2019.

In the case brought against Guardian the claimants argue the Sipp firm had failed to carry out due diligence on the investments before accepting them.

According to Mr Fatchett the claims brought by his 340 clients could amount to more than £10m in compensation if successful.

The administrators acknowledged the claims in their first statement but said the company was contesting the Fos complaints and defending the litigation claims.